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Chancellor Kohl Justifies the Creation of a German Historical Museum as a Contribution to National Unity (October 28, 1987)

On the occasion of Berlin's 750th anniversary, Chancellor Helmut Kohl announces the creation of a German Historical Museum in the Western part of the city as a reminder of the Germans’ shared past and as a symbol of hope for reunification.

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Berlin Remains the Focal Point of the German Question

Today Berlin celebrates its 750th birthday. On this day 750 years ago the city was mentioned in writing for the first time. On this anniversary, I would like to warmly congratulate all Berliners: in the name of the federal government and also in the name of all of the citizens of our republic.

We have gathered here to officially mark the founding of the German Historical Museum. This museum is a birthday present to Berlin from the federal government. [ . . . ] There is hardly a place more tightly linked to our German history and better suited to be the seat of this museum than the former German capital. Our history is reflected in its past and present fate. [ . . . ]

In the initial planning phase of the German Historical Museum, we were well aware of the fact that we were facing an extraordinary task. I myself continually stressed that it is a national task on a European order. The creation of the museum is a necessary political and cultural undertaking – it is of great significance for our divided nation and beyond that also for our neighbors. [ . . . ]

In recent years, many people have experienced that a clear determination of our place in the present is only possible if we are aware of the continuum of which we are part. Many feel that the repression of history lessons, undertaken in the name of enlightenment and better critical-thinking skills, has caused precisely the opposite of true enlightenment. Young people especially are discovering that a lack of knowledge about the past is blocking their path to personal and social maturity. They notice that without history people are homeless and rootless, given over to the respective zeitgeist without any kind of support.

For us Germans, the question of our history presents itself in a special way: We must never forget the experience of the National Socialist dictatorship, which brought immeasurable suffering to other peoples and to our own. It admonishes us to learn a lesson. This requires that we deal with history in a responsible way. According to the conception of the German Historical Museum, the period of National Socialism will also be presented as a significant part of our history and will occupy substantial space in the museum.

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